False River

False River, seen here at sunrise, ranks as one of the state’s most popular destination for fishing and boating. A drawdown of the waterway will help preserve the quality of the water and aquaculture for years to come, Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut said.

It’s considered a popular destination for tourist, a “backyard” for some residents and a geographical site most closely associated with Pointe Coupee Parish – and now, it’s getting a new lease on life.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries kicked off a bi-annual drawdown of False River, which is geared toward preservation of the waterway.

The pool stage – normal level for a body of water – will dip below six feet once the drawdown is complete.

At False River, the normal pool stage is 16 feet, and the most water the gates will allow to drop out is just shy of six feet. The depth will end up at 10 feet upon completion.

The waterway will remain open for boating and fishing throughout the project.

The work is part of an overall restoration plan which includes a drudging project overseen by the LDWF. The drudging will harden the lake-bottom surface, which reduces turbidity, dries out organic matter and sedimentation, and hardens the bottom.

The project will leave fewer particles and silt in the water, which block the sunlight and diminish water quality, according to Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut.

“It clears up the water with a harder bottom and allows more sunlight to get down the to the bottom, which leads to more vegetation growth, more oxygen and better water quality,” he said. “In the end, the fish also improve because it preserves the overall health for aquaculture and preserves and improves the conditions for the habitat.”

The work is part of a schedule the LDWF put into place in 2016 for False River.

The bi-annual commitment is a rare move for the state, which has thousands of waterways, Thibaut said.

“With most lakes, they call them as they see them,” he said. “Because False River is more inhabited with camps, businesses and homes, we asked for them to put together a 10-year schedule, which involves work every three years.”

The first project took place in 2017, and future projects are on the books for 2020, 2023 and 2026.

This year’s project is a “make-up” date that came into the mix because of a severe rain event.

“If mother nature doesn’t cooperate, you don’t have the ability to drain the lake,” Thibaut said. “Because of that huge rain event during the last drawdown, the bottom was never fully exposed, so this is a makeup of the 2017 project.”

 “NO SILVER BULLET”

Studies that led to the scheduled drawdowns began in 2011 after nearly four decades of decline on False River. Parish, state and federal officials combined their efforts to find ways to better manage and preserve the waterway. False River was once the main channel of the Mississippi River in the area before it was cut off in 1722 when seasonal flooding cut a shorter channel to the east.

After studies began, officials realized it would take a variety of projects to bring new life to the waterway.

“Using this as a management tool and using money for dredging as often as we can, an increase in fish stocking and building more habitat – artificial or creating natural habitat such as the island from the first dredging project, an artificial reef structure, gravel beds,” Thibaut said. “As well as making improvements on the M-1 and M-2 canals where they put in the weir schedules.

“It’s not a silver bullet approach – it’s a multipronged approach,” he said.

INVESTMENT IN THE FUTURE

The project also contributes largely to preservation of the economic future of the parish, both in terms of homes along the river and as part of a popular tourist destination.

“It sets us apart in this region,” Thibaut said. “Between that and Old River, it’s something for us to build on.

“If we want to drive tourism here, we have to take care of the natural resources that God gave us,” he said.